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Faces of Russian Style

bedside_gun.jpgIt seems like there have been a lot of stories recently about the marriage of Russia’s emerging political culture and style. First there was that story of the oxymoronic $2,000 Communist-style coats, men and fur (“It makes me feel like a sexy Bolshevik,” Josh Wood, a Manhattan night life promoter told the Times), and then the tabloid glorification of the daughters of the powerful on par with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton (which is perhaps an improvement). Today Karen von Hahn of the Globe and Mail introduces us to the new faces of Russian style: Dacha/Folklore, Czarist Luxe, Icy Allure, Mobster Chic, and Modern Russian Design. With Moscow as a trend setter, happiness is a warm, bedside Kalashnikov lamp. Does Russian fashion imitate Russian political life or vice versa? Either way, this is some very surreal stuff … Apparently Putinist authoritarianism isn’t just a system you suffer from, you can also wear it and show it off in your home.

From the Globe and Mail:

An old Soviet joke goes like this: A professor asks a student, “What is capitalism?” The student answers, “The exploitation of man by man.” “And what is socialism?” the professor asks. Without missing a beat, the student replies, “The opposite.”Switch the joke around to one about Leonid Brezhnev and current President Vladimir Putin and, according to many Russia watchers, you get an accurate read of what is going on in Russia now. Backsliding into authoritarian rule, picking off bothersome journalists like they’re empty pop cans on a fence, Putin is increasingly looking like one of his hard-line predecessors, if not a modern czar. Yet the popularity of the former KGB leader is at an all-time high. And the biggest joke of all is that Russia, which has always suffered a stylistic inferiority complex vis-à-vis France, hasn’t been as influential since the days of Catherine the Great. Russia the country may be in tumult, but Russia the look is the one to watch.With a population of more than 10 million, Moscow is now the biggest city in Europe. It is also home to an increasingly large share of the world’s wealth. According to Forbes magazine, the number of Russian billionaires grew by 19 last year, which places them third in the world behind the U.S. and Germany. They are also the youngest, with an average age of 46 and a total fortune at their disposal of $282-billion. The tastes of these new young oligarchs run to czarist opulence at home as well as in cities such as New York and London, where lifestyle retailers are increasingly discovering a market for over-the-top luxury goods. These days, nothing is too gilded or jewel-encrusted or laden with caviar. At last month’s Millionaire Fair in Moscow, the third annual event of its kind, the world’s largest Christmas tree made of pure gold, sold to a private owner, made Guinness World Records. And all this buying power is making its mark on the world’s taste.New-found Russian wealth, for instance, has been credited with the hyperinflation of the world art market. Comely Russian tennis stars Maria Sharapova and her countrywomen Anna Kournikova and Svetlana Kuznetsova, dubbed the “ovas,” are bringing sexy back to the sport. Russian models, from Natalia Vodianova to 20-year-old Sasha Pivovarova, dominate the runways. And premium vodka is the new champagne, flowing in rivers at hip Russo-themed bars such as Toronto’s Pravda, which reopened this week in a larger new location dripping with Romanov-worthy excess…..The faces of Russian StyleDacha/FolkloreFrom actual birch stumps to graphic twig and forest prints, the Russian woods have become a popular motif on everything from tableware to wall coverings. Nesting dolls, traditional folk patterns and anything evoking dachas (Russian country cottages) are also big, providing unlikely embellishment on contemporary furniture, accents and rugs.Czarist LuxeImagine the ultimate in opulence, from rich gilt furnishings to heavy jacquards, velvet and damask in jewel tones. Actual gems, cabochon-cut, are used as trim, while red and amethyst glass, Fabergé eggs and warm, sumptuous furs abound. Heavy embroidery, weaving and carpets hold pride of place, as do French classics such as Louis XIV chairs and Baroque clocks, their richness and grandeur exaggerated.Icy AllureThink Dr. Zhivago cool. Ice, glacier and snow motifs in tableware, lighting and industrial design. Cut glass, Lucite, mercury glass and mirror as decorative accents. White and more white. And trapper furs and pelts as upholstery and accents.Mobster ChicSwank sleaze characterizes this look, which includes irreverent damasks and toile, ruble-patterned fabrics for window coverings and upholstery, and gilded guns and stolen jewels as patterns, motifs or sculptural kitsch.Modern Russian DesignFrom fashion designer Denis Simachev (whose retro-Soviet T-shirts send up the icons of the old USSR) to Yar Rassadin and Sergey Mozheyko of Manworks (which reimagines Russian classics like samovars and nesting dolls as functional industrial objects), the new design from Russia is hip, wry and self-referential.